In a remarkable two-page document handwritten only months before her landmark bus incident, Mrs. Parks described the moment when the two stalwart leaders of the Civil Rights Movement came together.
This historic document, coming up for auction by Guernsey’s this summer, is just one of many treasured items to be included in an event devoted to African American history and culture. Among the hundreds of other items in the sale will be the fabled original Steel Town recording contract signed on November 21, 1967 by Joe Jackson on behalf of the Jackson Five (and Michael Jackson), and the complete Larry Richards “Cinema Apart” Collection featuring hundreds of film posters and related ephemera documenting African American involvement in the movies.
What do the Jackson Five’s (and Michael Jackson’s) first recording contract, the Larry Richards “A Cinema Apart” Collection, Rosa Parks’ family home and her handwritten thoughts on the day she first met Dr. Martin Luther King, and Alex Haley’s manuscript for the Malcolm X biography (which includes many of Mr. X’s personal notes) have in common? These and hundreds of other extraordinary items are being brought to the block by Guernsey’s, the New York City-based auction house, this coming July. Largely focusing on the Civil Rights Movement, African American movies, and music, this auction will include items that are of huge cultural and historical importance.
The Gregory Reed Collection is an archive of Civil Rights documents, rare books, and African-American musical ephemera, all from the offices of the prominent African-American lawyer who counted Rosa Parks among his clients. In an extraordinary two-page document, Mrs. Parks describes the occasion she first encountered Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Astonished that so young a man could speak so eloquently, she writes “I knew I would never forget him.” It was only months later that this giant of a little woman refused to give up her bus seat. Jail and death threats soon followed, causing Mrs. Parks to flee northward to Detroit where, along with her husband and extensive family, she found shelter in a small, 23’ x 23’ two-story wood home. Now, six decades later, that very structure (which is easily disassembled, and the buyer should know that there will be ample support available to assist in the easy assembly of the house) has been the subject of an international tour extensively covered by the media. The BBC and CNN reported on the story as did the New York Times, which ran three separate articles about the historic home. Most recently exhibited as part of a symposium with the Rhode Island School of Design, this truly historic Rosa Parks family home is in the auction with much of the proceeds directly supporting the Rosa McCauley Parks Heritage Foundation.
In 1992, the estate sale of the then late author Alex Haley was conducted. Internationally renowned for his historic novel, Roots, the top lot in the auction proved to be Haley’s original 257 page manuscript for the Autobiography of Malcolm X (as told to Alex Haley), with many handwritten notes and edits from both Malcolm X and the author. Separately sold in the event were the “lost chapters” - portions of the book thought too controversial to be published. Attorney Reed was the successful bidder back then; now, more than a quarter century later, these extraordinary documents will be offered again.
Comprised of hundreds of rare film posters, window and lobby cards, actor-worn clothing and more, the unique Cinema Apart Collection, assembled by the late Larry Richards, traces the course of African American cinema throughout the 20th century, and represents an important part of American and of cinematic history. In earlier times, films starring African American actors, or ‘all-black casts’ were made specifically for black audiences. These movies were not generally mainstream, and for a time their cultural significance not realized. Titles included Bronze Venus, Smiling Hate, Rhythm in a Riff, Congorilla, Two- Gun Man from Harlem, Voodoo Devil Drums, Midnight Menace, Porgy and Bess. Featuring names such as Paul Robeson, Lena Horne, Sammy Davis Jr., Eartha Kitt, Dorothy Dandridge, and Sidney Poitier, A Cinema Apart’s significance was recognized when a portion of it was selected for inclusion in the collection of the Smithsonian Museum.
In the 1960’s, emerging, wannabe record labels were almost too numerous to count. One of the upstarts, out of Gary, Indiana, was Steeltown Records, headed by William Adams. At a performance in a junior high school gym, Adams was riveted by five young men (boys, really). From this unheralded performance sprang the Jackson Five and the then nine year old Michael Jackson. On November 21, 1967, a contract between Steel Town and the Jackson Five was worked out and signed by Joe Jackson on behalf of his sons. Agreeing to “employ Steel Town, Inc.,” a career began that changed the world. Consigned directly by Mr. Adams, that remarkable contract is in this auction!
Long considered one of Jazz’ greatest piano players, Art Tatum died at age 47. Now, more than sixty years later, his estate has honored Guernsey’s by the inclusion in this event of many of Art’s most enduring treasures. Included among these is his stunning Steinway Grand piano, and a vintage Bulova wrist watch inscribed to the pianist and given to him by none other than Frank Sinatra.
The vast majority of the approximately 700 items in this auction are being offered without minimum reserve. The Gregory Reed Collection is being sold by court order. More information on this important event can be found at www.guernseys.com, and the auction house can be also reached at 212-794-2280. The event will be held live on July 25th and 26th at the historic General Scott Mansion on the corner of Park Avenue and 93rd Street, in New York City. Online bidding will take place at Liveauctioneers.com and Invaluable.com.
Original signed contract between Joe Jackson and Steeltown Records, November 21, 1967. This contract signed The Jackson Five to their first professional label.
First sheet of contract is a copy of the original. Signature sheet is original, measures 13 x 8 1/2'', and has been signed in blue pen. Dated as having been executed on the November 21, 1967. William Adams, of Steeltown Records, has signed on both the President and the Secretary lines. Joseph Jackson has signed the artist line. Document has been stamped and signed by a notary public. Wear around edges of paper, as well as deep crease along bottom due to the paper having been folded. Some slight age spots. Three small tears have been slightly taped on back.
Steeltown Records, in Gary, Indiana, is best known for being the label with which The Jackson Five got their start. Their first album, The Steeltown 45s, was released on this label. The story of their first signing went as such: Joe Jackson invited the owner of Steeltown to come see the Jackson kids perform at Beckman Junior High in Gary. Hestitant at first, he eventually agreed - and he was hugely impressed by what he saw. After the performance, Steeltown offered the Jacksons a record deal. The Jackson Five ever only recorded 8 songs with the label, 2 of which were unreleased. In July of 1968, The Jackson Five signed with Motown Records - a move that was controversial, as their contract with Steeltown had not yet expired.
Plus vintage sheet music of The Corporation's Maybe Tomorrow, as recorded by The Jackson Five (12 x 9''), and the December 1974 edition of Ebony Magazine, with The Jackson Five on the cover (13 1/2 x 10'').
Steeltown Records was located in Gary, Indiana. This contract comes to us from that label's original founder.
Guernsey's welcomes inquiries from the media regarding both past and upcoming events. PDF copies of the press release and links to media coverage of our African American Historic & Cultural Treasures are available below: